Midweek Reflections

The Harvest Wave

Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

        It’s harvest time in Central Illinois.  I was able to help with the fall harvest one day this past week.  My job was to drive the grain truck and haul corn to the elevator.  I get to help with this a few times each season, and every year there is something that always blesses me:  The simple wave from the people in other grain trucks, combines, and tractors as you pass them on the road.
Why does this happen?  I believe there are three reasons.  First, it’s the common purpose each worker feels for those who have a part in bringing in the harvest.  Second, it’s a friendly way to go about your day that is mostly spent in the seat of a truck, combine, or tractor.  And third, it just makes you feel better to be friendly and supportive.
If only we could take that harvest wave and make it a part of the rest of our lives.  Actually, we can.  The Bible is full of words that bring encouragement, hope, and purpose to life.  It is also full of verses that encourage us to be about those things.  Like the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 that says, “Encourage one another and build each other up…”
In a time in where social media is often used to tear people down and present a fist and insult instead of a wave or handshake, we can be the difference makers.  Let’s take the advice of Paul and choose to encourage one another and build each other up.  Hopefully I don’t have to wait until next Fall’s harvest to be reminded of this.
Make it Personal:  How often do you start your day off with the intention of being friendly, supportive, and upbeat?  If we start with that kind of attitude and ask Jesus to help us stay there we can be a blessing to those we meet each day.  We will feel better as well.  Let’s give it a shot!
Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Crisis Management

September 19. 2018
Read: Psalm 121              
    In recent weeks we heard about how people on the U.S. East Coast prepared for hurricane Florence.  Some prepared, some did not, and some were caught in the eye of the storm.  Some evacuated, and some chose not to.  In some cases people probably had nowhere to go and so they tried to weather the storm.  We need to continue to pray for those affected by this storm.  
How do we manage crisis, trouble, and storms when they come into our lives?  How do you cope with unexpected difficulties when they arise?  Do you allow them to defeat you or do you seek refuge and find opportunities to learn and grow from them?  The Bible has helpful counsel about this in Psalm 121.  “Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord.”
I don’t speak Chinese, but I have heard that the word “crisis” in that language consists of only two characters.  The first character represents danger, and the second character represents opportunity.  This is a reminder that every crisis we face also presents an opportunity for us.  The opportunity is to seek after God for help.
Psalm 121 proclaims that God created the heavens and the earth, so surely God can and will help us through a crisis.  God created you, God watches over you, and God will help you, is what the Psalmist proclaims.  We are not promised a life free of difficulties or struggles, but we are promised the opportunity to seek God’s help in the midst of those.
What crisis are you in right now?  Have you called out to God for help?  If you try to manage it on your own, you most likely will find pain and struggle.  If you call on Jesus you will find the help and strength you need to manage and find your way through it. “The Lord is a very present help in times trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)
Make it Personal:  Along with Psalm 121 also read Matthew 6:25-34.  In those verses Jesus himself speaks about how he can deliver you from worry, anxiety, fear, and the future.  All of these verses are wonderful words to pray as we lift up our families, communities, nation, and world in the midst of various crisis and troubles.
Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

The Meaning of Life

Read:  Ecclesiastes 12          
       Some of the most asked questions in all the world revolve around the meaning of life.  So many people find themselves feeling alone, empty, and struggling with disappointment and heartache.  Why this?  What about this?  What does this mean?  When will things change?  Those questions are just the tip of the iceberg.  Many people look to possessions, money, experiences, pleasure, and power to fill the void and yet still come away feeling empty.
The Bible has a book that reflects these feelings.  Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes as a way of contemplating all these feelings that go on inside.  The book as a whole can be quite depressing unless we consider its wisdom, counsel, and reflective nature.  Chapter 12, the final chapter is key to understanding where Solomon was and where he was going with these words.
At the end of his life he considered all of his experiences (good and bad) and shared his wisdom and learning with the billions of people who have read his words through the generations.  In an attitude of repentance, wisdom, and humility he concludes that everything apart from God is hollow, meaningless, and empty.  In other words, God is the way to find meaning in life.
In the Contemporary English Version, the last verses of the last chapter read like this, “Everything you were taught can put into a few words: Respect and obey God!  This is what life is all about.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)    Perhaps the way the Life Application Bible says it sums this book of the Bible up the best.
“Solomon had a very honest approach.  All of his remarks relating to the futility of life are there for a purpose: to lead us to seek fulfillment and happiness in God alone.  He is not trying to destroy all hope, but to direct our hopes to the only one who can truly fulfill them and give our life meaning. Solomon affirms the value of knowledge, relationships, work, and pleasure, but only in their proper place.  Everything temporal must be in seen in light of the eternal.”
Make it Personal:  Read Ecclesiastes and learn about life.  Don’t use it as a testimony of despair, instead consider it as a testimony of someone who has tried all the avenues of life and came back to the one thing that really brought meaning to life, a relationship with God.  Solomon testifies that life is meaningless without God.
Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

To Give of Your Time

Read: Luke 17:11-19

            It is great to help other people, especially those in need.  What a blessing it is to follow the ways of Jesus and take time out of your day to lend a helping hand to someone.  In Luke 17:11-19 Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when ten men with leprosy called out to him from a distance and said, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  Jesus could have ignored their plea and continued on his way, but that is not who Jesus is.  He acknowledged their need and provided help.

Giving of our money is important and needed, but giving of our time is a much more personal way to reach out to people.  We need to think creatively how we can follow this example that Jesus left us to be light and hope in a world that has many people in need.  How can we make that a part of our individual lives and a part of our family’s sense of call as well?

A Time magazine article says, “volunteer with your children so it doesn’t come at the expense of family time.  Interacting with the people you’re helping will cultivate your kids’ sense of empathy, and yours too.”  It will also be a great opportunity to share with your children the many examples in the Gospels of Jesus helping others.

Lauren Bush in that same Time article writes, “I have friends who go every week to the same soup kitchen to volunteer, that’s extremely rewarding when people can regularly engage with not only a single cause but a single community center, hospital, soup kitchen, wherever it might be.”  The truth is, we often come away blessed ourselves by being a blessing to others.

In Matthew 25 Jesus speaks words that help us understand his actions in Luke 17 and so many other stories in the Gospels.  Jesus tells his disciples, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Who are you supposed to help and give your time to this week?

Make it Personal:  It’s easy to give money to areas of need.  While that is definitely needed we also need to give people our time.  Sometimes that means helping physically with a need, other times it is just sitting down and listening to someone who is going through a difficult time.  When people give of their time they rarely regret it later on.

Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Faith and Hope

Read: Hebrews 11

                As I read a devotional recently I was reminded of those first times that our children learned to drive a vehicle.  I still remember the first time our daughter got behind the wheel after getting her drivers permit at age 15.  I started out a nervous and uneasy passenger in the front seat.  It wasn’t long until my wife took over in the front and I was directed to the back seat.  I lost my job as navigator because I was too uptight and on edge with every little turn.  Truth is, both of our children were pretty good drivers.

Carey Scott shared about this experience with her children in a Proverbs 31 Ministries devotional.  She said, “These drives (with her children) were full of all kinds of hopes.  I hope Sam will stay on the road.  I hope he’ll remember his turn signal.  I hope I don’t die.”  She said her son also had a prevailing hope.  That his mom would keep her mouth shut during these drives.

Scott goes on to write, “Hope is a powerful motivator. It’s what drives us to try again. It’s what keeps us from sinking under the weight of adversity. Hope keeps us positive, fuels our joy, and helps us reach for our dreams with gusto. Hope matters. And while many think hope is nothing more than wishful thinking, Christian hope means confident expectation. It’s believing in the possibility.”

Hebrews 11 is filled with the faith and hope of God’s people.  From Abraham, to Noah, and many more, this faith in God’s promise gives the people hope to keep moving forward.  In the end they saw how their hope, faith, and trust in God changed their story and their situations.  It can do the same for you.  We had hope that our children would learn to be good drivers.  We had faith that God would protect them during that time of learning, and in the end we all learned something about faith, hope, and trust.  Yes, I’m riding in the front passenger’s seat again without any fears.

Make it Personal:        Along with Hebrews 11 there are many wonderful testimonies of faith and hope in the Bible.  Get your Bible out this week and read about them.  You will come across great verses like this that you can make personal to your own situation.  “I pray that God, the source of all hope, will infuse your lives with an abundance of joy and peace in the midst of your faith so that your hope will overflow through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Everybody Is Doing It

Read: Romans 12:1-8

            The common excuse of “Everybody is doing it” is usually not a good reason to join the crowd.  In many cases it is not even true.  How do you truly define “everybody” anyway?  In many cases this phrase is used when people are trying to justify doing something that is either dangerous, detrimental, or probably not in their best interest.

In a recent newspaper article Tribune News Service Columnist Lori Borgman shared some of the ways that phrase is used…
“Everybody’s doing it,” muttered the employee as he stole from his employer.
“Everybody’s doing it,” purred the woman pursuing a married man.
“Everybody’s doing it,” hissed the drug supplier offering a free sample.
“Everybody’s doing it,” bellowed the rioter hurling rocks through business windows.
“Everybody’s doing it,” chuckled the teen forwarding a picture to his friend.
“Everybody’s doing it,” sneered a girl attempting to shame a reluctant peer.
You could probably add your own to this list as well.

Borgman goes on to share that we need to call this phrase what it really is, “A bold-faced lie.”  In Romans 12:1-2 we are encouraged to renew our minds and not conform to the patterns of this world.  Jesus can help us to live in a way that is pleasing to God and not be so worried about what everyone else might be doing.

You see, when we seek the counsel of God then we will be able to test and approve of what His good, pleasing, and perfect will is for our lives. God’s Word (The Bible) is where we should get our wisdom and guidance, not from the latest fade, trendiest idea, or that thing that we try to convince ourselves that everyone is doing.

Make it Personal:  The next time you try to justify something by what others are doing, remember to seek God’s counsel on what you should be doing.  Then remind yourself that most people are probably not doing whatever it is you think they are doing.

Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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